THOUGH A FULL two years have passed since its initial publication, there is one book making serious waves on literary lists this summer. *The Help* is the debut novel from American writer Kathryn Stockett, which details the racial segregation between African-American maids in the 1960s and the wealthy, Caucasian families for whom they worked.
Seemingly inspired by Stockett’s relationship with her own childhood nanny, the novel gained major acclaim since its release due to its insightful and highly personal treatment of racial issues in the southern United States. Set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, The Help is related by three female narrators. The first is Aibileen Clark, an older African-American maid whose work largely consists of parenting the children of her employers. Due to the recent loss of her only son, the sections narrated by Aibileen are focused on the role of the titular help in relation to the children whom they effectively raise.
Aibileen is followed by feisty narrator Minny Jackson. Inclined toward insolence and quick to anger, Minny draws the reader into a plethora of situations and conversations that highlight the separation between the two races living under one roof in the novel. Clearly intended to represent her race’s sense of injustice, Minny challenges both her employer’s and the reader’s sense of right and wrong.
The final—and the only Caucasian—narrator is Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan. Unlike her companions telling this tale, Skeeter enjoys the privilege of her race and class. Still, Skeeter is not content to keep away from the African-American woman who raised her. Spending the majority of her time in the novel in search of her former nanny, Skeeter and her affectionate attachment to the missing woman highlight the real relationships hidden behind the veil of racism.
Stockett does an incredible job of weaving the history at the heart of her novel into an intricate and personal plot line. For anyone looking for a brilliant, well-written book—and an emotionally charged read—*The Help* is exactly what you’re looking for.
—Jaclyn Lytle and Suad Sheek Hussein
Check out the trailer for the upcoming movie version of The Help, here: